Here we go again. Just last week, CNN posted a report entitled, "Are multivitamins a waste of money? Editorial in medical journal says yes." The gist of the report is that according to a series of studies recently published, taking a multivitamin does not statistically prevent cancer, heart disease, or cognitive decline. This, of course, has the vitamin industry in a tizzy. They make about $12 billion annually and multivitamins are their most popular product. Reports like this, if true, could cut into their bottom line. But I don't much care whose bottom line gets hurt. I just want to know the truth. So here it is, like it or not.
There is one huge limitation to virtually all medical studies that no one seems to be talking about. And these studies in question have the same problem. It has to do with the contradiction between what statistically works for the majority of a large group of people and what works for an individual person. So let's put this statistical vs. individual perspective into the CNN article.
From a statistical perspective, people taking multivitamins did not prevent cancer, heart disease, or cognitive decline. I can live with that. But who is to say that in that group there wasn't a large number of people, albeit a statistically low number, who did prevent these diseases with their multis? The answer is that we can't tell by this kind of analysis.
The paper came out in The International Journal of Vitamin Research last year. The author reviewed the literature on whether taking multis prevented disease or not. He found that every study he looked at showed that taking multivitamins does not statistically prevent any disease. And then he goes on to say why. We are doing it all wrong!
The reason, he says, that studies on nutritional supplements in "amounts above the RDA" rarely show any kind of overall benefit is because not everyone needs the supplements. In fact, his point is that most people don't. So if you give extra nutritional supplements to someone who doesn't need them, what is the likelihood that they will benefit? Not much. He makes the point that although statistically large groups of people won't benefit from taking multis, there is a very significant subset that will.
And there is one very common reason why many Americans will fall into that subset that needs a multi. It's the American diet. The myth of the American diet was exposed years ago in an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That study showed that 31% of the average American's diet is nutritionally deficient because of the use of convenience and processed food. The authors of that study stated that these deficient diets result in "low serum concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids." Not my words, theirs.
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And here are a few more thoughts. According to CNN, "More than half of all adults in the United States take some sort of multivitamin." According to the co-author of the editorial, Dr. Edgar Miller, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said people take multivitamins because they say it makes them feel better. So isn't it a bit hard to believe that more than 50% of the people in the United States are being duped? And by the way, Dr. Miller, do you have a problem with people taking a natural supplement that makes them feel better? I have always thought that one of the main goals of doctors is to help their patients feel better. Whether or not multis prevent disease, I can still make a good argument for anything natural that makes us feel and function better.
Furthermore, multis are safe. There is not one published study that shows otherwise. I find it ironic that the same docs that say that multis may be unsafe are the ones who prescribe the drugs that are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Am I smelling bias here?
So do I think that everyone needs a multi? Definitely not. There are so many other more important ways to stay healthy than to swallow a pill. I have talked about this before. Before you start with the multi, get your diet in order. Before you start with the multi, get your body at a high level of fitness. Before you start with the multi, make sure your hormone levels are youthful. And before you start with the multi, get your lifestyle in order. I'm talking about excessive alcohol, unnecessary medications (and most of them are unnecessary), lack of sleep and rest, stress, toxins, smoking, and toxic emotions like anxiety, depression, anger, and resentment. Then, once you've taken care of business, take a good basic detox/multi supplement like my Super Immune QuickStart just in case. Not only is it perfectly safe, it will add extra nutrition that I'm comfortable with everyone getting. If scientists would start studying the people who did all that, they would find a dramatic reduction in disease across the entire spectrum.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Are multivitamins a waste of money? Editorial in medical journal says yes
By Nadia Kounang, CNN updated 9:15 AM EST, Tue December 17, 2013
http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/16/health/multivitamins-studies/index.html?hpt=hp_t2. Accessed 12-10-13
Kjeldsen-Kragh J, Haugen M, Borchgrevink CF, et al. Controlled trial of fasting and one-year vegetarian diet in rheumatoid arthritis. Lancet. 1991 Oct 12;338(8772):899-902.
Moser U. Vitamins - wrong approaches. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2012 Oct;82(5):327-32.
Kant AK. Consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods by adult Americans: nutritional and health implications. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Oct;72(4):929-36.
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